I finally heard an original comment by a person passing by me and my dog on our hike today: “What is that – a Chihuahua? A toy Chihuahua?” Thank you, sir for not saying the usual “You should ride that guy up here” or “Is that a horse?” or “Wow, that’s a big dog.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with those comments – it’s just that I hear them so often they are no longer clever or funny to me.)
Titan: my big, dopey, sweet, eager-to-please Great Dane.
I first got Titan about four months after my miscarriage. I was so very depressed – undiagnosed, but assuredly clinically depressed – after the dramatic loss of that pregnancy and the hope of tiny life it held. No matter how much I prayed, no matter how much I tried to focus on the blessings in my life, no matter how much I cried to my husband about my pain… nothing could get into my heart or brain to fix my immense grief. I had so desperately wanted to hold that lost baby. I had so desperately wanted to care for it and help it and keep it alive and love it. But it didn’t work out that way.
At that same time, our neighbors across the street had a wonderful big black Great Dane/Labrador puppy named Tank. Tank was awesome – playful and friendly like a Lab, but calm and gentle like a Dane. I loved that puppy. And, as my husband and I got to know Tank’s owners, I fell in love with them as well. They were “real,” down-to-earth, realistic, genuine, doing-their-best-but-still-flawed-like-the-rest-of-us, Jesus followers.
So I loved them. And I loved their dog.
And so, when the Darkness just wouldn’t go away after my gone-straight-to-heaven baby, and after spending so much time with these new friends and their dear sweet dog, an idea struck me: maybe if I got a dog – a really really big dog – maybe that would help my arms and heart not feel so empty.
So after a month or so of trying to convince Jay that we actually could fit a giant dog breed into our little 900 square foot condo, he finally gave in and let me start researching which breed to get and from where, etc. We finally settled on a Great Dane. That was the breed we had the most experience with and knew firsthand about its temperament. We knew Danes were calm, friendly, docile, great with children, and comfortable living in small spaces. Surprising to many people due to their immense size, they are often referred to as “great apartment dogs.”
After much research, we ultimately decided to get a dog from the Great Dane Rescue organization in our state and – lo and behold! – they happened to have a litter of 12-week old puppies who had been rescued with their mom. That was ideal: a puppy! That would mean that, at least for a little while, our small daughters would have a height advantage over the dog, who, at 12-weeks old, was about the size of a full grown Labrador. This height advantage was great for both the girls and the dog, because it gave the girls a sense of authority over this playful puppy as we were taking him to obedience classes and making sure to establish an appropriate pecking order in the house. Needless to say, we were absolutely delighted to get the opportunity to meet some of the puppies in the litter to see which one would be a good fit for us.
When we went to the rescue kennel, the woman in charge let out three of the puppies who were still available for adoption. It became clear in a matter of seconds which one was destined to be our dog. These three puppies had been cooped up in a small cage all day; when we arrived and let them out in the yard this was their first opportunity to stretch their legs that day. It is perfectly understandable that two of those puppies ran around like wild banshees in thrilled excitement to be out of confinement. But one of those puppies did something I never expected. He first walked straight to me (I was kneeling down so my face was more at his level), and came and nuzzled his head into my chest and pressed into me and just breathed deeply with me. When we led him over to the big field where his brother and sister were running around, he just sat there quietly and let Abby and Ellie hug him and love on him. He looked so content to just sit there with a four and five-year-old draping their arms around his chest and neck. the three of them looked like they been pals since birth. And although my husband had been hoping for a fawn-colored Great Dane – which looks like Marmaduke with the tan colored body and black face mask – when this black Dane was behaving in such a manner with our precious girls, all J and I could do was look at each other and smile knowingly. Here he was at last – my big black new baby.
And while having and loving and being loved by this furry “baby” didn’t take away the fog of Depression that had scrambled up my brain (as I had hoped he would) — relief from that didn’t come until three long years later — Titan has been an unspeakably great joy to me. I just love this silly, innocent, not-too-bright, friend of mine. He is my constant hiking companion, my snuggle-buddy and champion barker when my husband works the night shift, and an endless source of amusement and tenderness. After I first read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, and started working on my own list of God’s good gifts, I noticed that Titan made the list quite often:
#197. Titan snoozing soundly on my bed after being banned to the bedroom because of my niece’s dog allergies.
#239. Titan’s ear flopped over while he lays sleeping.
#283. My ever-snuggly Dane.
#536. Titan with a blanket on him, twitching and grunting in his sleep.
#574. How Titan’s ears perk up when he notices something across the way.
I had no idea having this unique-looking guy would be the impetus for so many
interactions with strangers. Or that this silly dog would be one of the main ingredients during the genesis of my friendship with my now-bestie. I remember when I first got Titan, and she had Tank (who is about a year and a half older than Titan), the four of us would go for walks or hikes as often as possible. Having our two big black dogs and taking them up into the hills to get some much needed head-clearing, exercise, fresh air, and meaningful conversation, was a blessing beyond anything I had expected.
Ahhh, Titan. My freakishly skinny, horse-like, always leaning against my thigh, sweetly trotting alongside me as I hike in the hills, snuggling up to me when I cry… friend.
To tell you the truth, he is one of my favorite people.
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What about you?
Have you ever had a pet that became a great source of help or joy or maybe even healing in your life? Or do you have a funny pet story you could share to help brighten my day?
Please feel free to email me or share your experience to the comment section below.